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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

'I Just Had To Get Out': How Nature Is Helping Us During The Pandemic

Ann Thompson
One of many trails at the Cincinnati Nature Center in Milford.

On this Earth Day, you may be thinking how much nature has helped you over this past year. You may not know exactly why going outside makes you feel better, but plenty of people keep doing it.

Paul Eckard has lived all over the country and world and says he has found his special place at the Cincinnati Nature Center in Milford. At the beginning of the pandemic, it had a brief shutdown for two and a half weeks. "I just had to get out in any park I could get to, just to get out, and then as soon as this reopened I was here every day," Eckard says.

Kate Albert says being outside helps her. She's a painter and can remember "hiking" trails at the Nature Center before she could walk. "That's how a lot of people heal, and I think over the last year, a lot of people have learned that's the best way to heal," she says.

Cincinnati Nature Center Membership Manager Laura Schmid has seen many people embrace nature since the pandemic began. "We had a member who came into our visitor center and brought us two plates of chocolate chip cookies with a thank you note saying, 'Thank you so much for being a resource for our community, especially this past year.' "

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
Anderson Township's David Gelter recently rediscovered the Cincinnati Nature Center and is bringing his grown daughter and granddaughter now.

Education Director Connie O'Connor came prepared with a long list of health benefits. She says you don't have to go to a park. You can go outside in your backyard.

How nature helps, according to O'Connor:

In addition, O'Connor has two other bits of information: If you have 15 kinds of birds in your backyard, you are healthier; and Korea is doing forest bathing to treat gaming addictions.

O'Connor says COVID helped remind people when all else is gone, nature endures.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
From left: Hiker and artist Kate Albert, Membership Manager Laura Schmid and Education Director Connie O'Connor.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology